3861 Uniqueness of Earth and the Significance of Life in Christian Perspectives

Sunday, February 20, 2011: 2:30 PM
147A (Washington Convention Center )
Jennifer Wiseman , AAAS Science and Policy Programs, Washington, DC
With the detection of hundreds of extra-solar planets, the possibility of “other worlds” is no longer just science fiction.   These exciting discoveries, paired with advances in astrobiology, are preparing us to know better whether or not we are likely to be the sole life-bearing planet in the universe.   Christian thought throughout the ages has had mixed reactions to the idea of life elsewhere.  While most Christian traditions of today can embrace a life-filled universe, especially one of simple life, as an extension of the abundant good gift of life on Earth, there are certain central Christian tenets that require special consideration.   In particular the doctrine of “incarnation” – God becoming human to help and redeem us-- deserves some special thought if there are many other intelligent life forms out there!   Recent gatherings of scientists and theologians, such as those sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, affirm the eagerness to consider these issues.       I will discuss historical and recent reflections on the relationship of human uniqueness, Christian theology, and the possibilities of abundant (or rare) exo-solar life.